10 Jun What is Carbon Sequestration and How Does it Work?
What is Carbon Sequestration and how Does it Work?
Simply put, the process of capturing, extracting, securing, and storing from the atmosphere is known as carbon sequestration. It is done to manage and access carbon in solidified forms in order to prevent any eventual harm to the atmosphere. In the face of the stressful and urgent narratives of climate change, it promises some hope towards controlling and reducing the planet’s carbon footprint and ensuring the acceleration of global warming through mainly two types: biological & geological.
Before we begin understanding what is carbon sequestration, let’s look at what carbon is:
We will not be wrong to dignify carbon as life itself. Or a chemical that enables life in all forms and beings. Most literally, it is the basic building block of biomolecules and exists in three forms primarily – solid, dissolved as well as gaseous forms. From being a component in graphite to indestructible diamonds, carbon is also combined with oxygen molecules and is found in gaseous forms.
You hear it everywhere, so hear it once more: carbon is heat-trapping! It traps the heat which is produced by plants, animals, humans, and the planet in general. There are also unnatural ways in which carbon is produced such as when fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, oil) are burned and utilized in transportation and power generation. In lesser-known ways that carbon gets generated are land-use changes (forest fires), through oceans as well and the general and all decomposition of all living beings found in any form.
When the carbon gets built up, it directly leads to the worsening of global warming and well, the reality of climate change on the whole. Therefore, the scientific community is of the assuring opinion that if it can be captured and stored, the debilitating effects of climate change might also get deferred.
Let’s understand how exactly it works by looking at the various types of it.
Biological Carbon Sequestration
When carbon gets stored in vegetation – grasslands, forests, oceans, & soils.
Ocean: Around 25% of the carbon that is released through human activities gets directly absorbed by the oceans. Carbon goes in all directions and when released into the atmosphere, it created a positive atmospheric flux. However, if that same carbon gets absorbed by the ocean, it refers to negative atmospheric flux. (Inhale exhale of the whole planet, essentially). Colder and healthier oceans absorb more carbon and can serve as proper carbon sinks in fact.
Soil: When plants sequestrate carbon through photosynthesis and store it as ‘soil organic carbon’. The carbon can also get stored in the form of carbonates, however, these are prone to disruptions because of how agroecosystems can degrade the soil pH.
Carbonates are inorganic and can store carbon for more than, 70,000 years. Therefore, the focus point of the scientists is accelerating the process of carbonate formation.
Forests: About 25% of carbon dioxide is captured by plant-rich ecosystems such as forests, grasslands, and the rangelands. Even when these plants die, the carbon is transferred into the soil. This is exactly why forest fires, wildfires, and deforestation like human activities pose an immense threat to forests acting as a carbon sink.
Geological Carbon Sequestration
This is when carbon is stored in underground geological rock or other formations. When captured through an industrial source (steel/ cement/ energy-related) and injected into porous rocks for long-term storage.
Technological Carbon Sequestration
We are after all amid the Industrial Revolution 4.0 which is all about technological innovations and advancements. A great intersection is visible between that green technology and climate change. Scientists aren’t limited to just finding newer ways of storing carbon but are going beyond to devise ways wherein carbon can get used as a resource.
Direct Air Capture (DAC): Herein, technology plants are used to capture air directly. This is extremely advanced and well, extremely expensive ($500-800 per ton of carbon that is removed!), making it impossible to implement on a large scale.